# Why does this code work, python

• Comp Sci
This isn't quite homework, it was just in my textbook as an illustration. Below is a function to return a list in reverse order.

Why does it work? My brother tried to explain it to me but failed to clarify. The only line I don't understand is the third and what process takes place because of it.

Code:
def list_reverse(a_list):
for index in range(len(a_list) / 2):
a_list[index],a_list[-index-1] = a_list[-index-1],a_list[index]

return a_list

this_list=["happy", 1,2,3,4,5]
print list_reverse(this_list)

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wukunlin
Gold Member
basically, in a list there are n elements, with indices 0, 1, 2, 3, ... , n-1

in the third line, you assign element n-1 to index 0, assign element n-2 to index 2, assign element n-1-x to index x, as well as the reverse, ie assign element x to index n-1-x

you have to do it in pairs because if you simply assign element x into index n-1-x, what was originally as element n-1-x would then be lost and (in most cases) irrecoverable

Mark44
Mentor
That third line is very tricky. The purpose of that line is to swap two elements of a list. Although you can do this in pretty much any programming language, the way it is done here is unique to Python.

The more usual way of swapping two elements in a list is this:
1) Store the value of the first variable in a temp variable.
2) Store the value of the second element in the first variable.
3) Store the value of temp in the second variable.

Here is Python code for reversing the elements of a list, using this technique.
Code:
def list_reverse(a_list):
for index in range(len(a_list) / 2):
temp = a_list[index]
a_list[index] = a_list[-index-1]
a_list[-index-1] = temp

return a_list

this_list=[0, 1,2,3,4,5, 6, 7, 8, 9]
print this_list
print list_reverse(this_list)
The other thing that is tricky about the code you showed is its use of negative indexes for the list. My code example can be rewritten so that it doesn't use negative list indexes.
Code:
def list_reverse(a_list):
length = len(a_list)
for index in range(len(a_list) / 2):
temp = a_list[index]
a_list[index] = a_list[len -index-1]
a_list[len -index-1] = temp

return a_list

this_list=[0, 1,2,3,4,5, 6, 7, 8, 9]
print this_list
print list_reverse(this_list)

Dick
Homework Helper
This a good academic exercise, but everyone knows the real way to reverse a list in Python is to use the 'reverse' method of the list class, right? It's going to be faster than the Python code using tuples, and even faster than the pseudo-C code using 'temp'. Just checking...

Dick Said
Re: Why does this code work, python
This a good academic exercise, but everyone knows the real way to reverse a list in Python is to use the 'reverse' method of the list class, right? It's going to be faster than the Python code using tuples, and even faster than the pseudo-C code using 'temp'. Just checking...

Yes, that's understood

I think the point was to give us Hint as to What C might behave like in this instance